CALGARY, Alberta — Heart disease is the leading cause of death in North America, but a groundbreaking discovery by Canadian researchers may lead to a new array of treatments for heart problems. A study conducted at the University of Calgary has found a previously unidentified cell population located very close to the human heart capable of healing injured heart muscles.
This new cell, a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage, is located in the fluid found inside the sac around the heart. It was first discovered and tested in mice, but after researchers identified its healing properties, they were able to find the same cells located near human hearts.
Most of our organs have the ability to heal themselves at a cellular level, but the heart has very limited healing abilities, which is a major reason why many forms of heart disease are so hard to treat.
Researchers say that heart doctors had never considered that cells just outside the heart could contain healing properties, but now that they’ve been discovered, it opens up new treatment options for heart disease patients.
“Our discovery of a new cell that can help heal injured heart muscle will open the door to new therapies and hope for the millions of people who suffer from heart disease. We always knew that the heart sits inside a sac filled with a strange fluid. Now we know that this pericardial fluid is rich with healing cells. These cells may hold the secret to repair and regeneration of new heart muscle. The possibilities for further discovery and innovative new therapies are exciting and important,” explains study author Dr. Paul Fedak in a release.
Next, Fedak and his team hope to conduct a broader study on the cells and their healing properties on the human heart.
The study is published in the scientific journal Immunity.